HSCN Access Framework: The Buyer Perspective

The NHS Digital new Health and Social Care Network comes into force replacing N3; we reported on the transition in Public Spend Forum Europe. We now have a perspective on what that means for buyers and suppliers. Starting today we have a view from the buy side: Michael Bowyer, innovation director at industry association, Innopsis, comments on the benefits of the HSCN Access Framework – RM3825 – from a buyer perspective.

We welcome news that the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) has launched the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) Access Framework, one of the key routes to market for suppliers delivering new telecoms services to the health and social care sector. Delivering on schedule, this marks a key milestone in the commercial journey taken by NHS Digital to implement the next generation of connectivity services for health and social care users.

Significantly, the RM3825 framework pioneers the use of a Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) providing suppliers with a much simpler process for admittance to the market opportunity on an ongoing basis. To date we’ve seen the successful use of DPS frameworks in a number of categories of spend, but their use in ICT procurement has been limited. The benefits for suppliers are clear but how does DPS, and more specifically, the HSCN Access Agreement, benefit buyers i.e. those responsible for procurement in health and social care?

The main advantage for procurement professionals, supporting HSCN’s objective for a more competitive marketplace, is greater choice and easy access to connectivity services from a range of suppliers, both large and small.

The DPS alerts all suppliers on the framework to any new tender opportunities, thereby offering an open invitation to bid. So, provided the tender is well written, procurement professionals can expect a good response from a variety of service providers. As awareness and adoption of RM3825 grows, this will only increase as the framework becomes the recognised and accepted route to market.

We anticipate seeing around 20 to 25 suppliers joining RM3825 in the first wave, with more to follow in due course. The knock-on effect of increased market competition in any sector is typically a reduction in cost as suppliers compete for business. HSCN has many commercial objectives but perhaps one of the most compelling is circa 45% cost savings on connectivity services provided by its predecessor under the N3 contract.

But cost isn’t the only factor in a competitive market. At Innopsis, we believe that HSCN holds the key to the delivery of real innovation when it comes to connectivity services in health and social care.

To some extent all frameworks promote competition in that they provide a marketplace from which vendors can sell their wares alongside their competitors. But DPS is different in its very nature; suppliers can join the system throughout its life, as and when they are ready, provided they meet the qualification requirements.

For suppliers wishing to take part in the HSCN market opportunity via RM3825 this could be achieved in as little as 12 to 15 days from when they achieve HSCN Stage 1 compliance (Stage 2 is required in order to be able to supply any services). Importantly, this enables suppliers to judge when they are ready to make their services available to the marketplace – the benefit for buyers being that they are engaging with a supplier that is market-ready rather than one that has rushed to meet a deadline for acceptance onto a traditional static framework. DPS also ensures that procurements are made easier and timeframes reduced.

Because suppliers joining the HSCN Access Framework need to have met certain criteria and demonstrate that they can meet HSCN obligations, another major advantage for buyers is reduced risk – a major consideration for typically risk-adverse professionals in the health and social care sectors. They can be assured that suppliers are credible, that minimum standards and requirements have been met through the HSCN compliance process. Put simply, they can be confident that suppliers are fit and ready to deliver connectivity services capable of meeting the demands of the health and social care sectors today.

While RM3825 is not the only route to market for HSCN services, in the longer run we fully expect this to become a well-trodden path, adopted and embraced by industry and procurement professionals alike.

This isn’t just about connecting the NHS, but social care too. Once we’ve seen the first wave of larger procurements in the healthcare sector, replacing N3 connections, we’re likely to see smaller procurements and those that factor in social care providers.

Ultimately, HSCN is about delivering more joined up health and social care. And, if that’s the end goal, or destination, then RM3825 is the road that leads us there.

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